The Republicans and the Civil War
In keeping with the prevailing tendency toward political realignment, and as a direct result of the Kansas-Nebraska act, a new political party now came into being. Wilmot-proviso sentiment caused various diverse elements here and there to fuse into organizations which sometimes bore the awkward designation of "anti-Nebraska" parties, but which soon came to be known as the "Republican" party. There has been some dispute as to the exact time and place where the party was "born." Coalition movements of a similar sort were afoot in many parts of the country at about the same time, and such a dispute is of little importance. The name Republican was adopted at a mass meeting on July 6, 1854, at Jackson, Michigan; prior to this, however, while the repeal of the Missouri compromise was pending in Congress, a similar mass meeting at Ripon, Wisconsin, had resolved that in the event of such repeal old party organizations would be discarded and a new party would be built "on the sole issue of the non-extension of slavery." Elsewhere in the country local conventions followed suit; and by late summer of 1854 the new party movement was well under way. Made up of old-line Whigs, many of whom, such as Bates of Missouri and Browning of Illinois, preserved the Southern conservative tradition, together with radical anti-slavery men such as Sumner and Julian, Know-Nothings, and Free-Soil Democrats such as Trumbull and Chase, the new party combined many diverse ingredients; the force that cemented them (at the outset) was common opposition to the further extension of slavery in the territories.
The outcome of Douglas's policy had been the opposite of his intentions. So far from allaying sectional conflict and uniting his party, he had reopened the strife which he himself had designated the "fearful struggle of 1850"; he had split the historic Democratic party; he had supplied the occasion for the entrance of a wholly sectional party onto the scene; and he had driven many Northern Democrats into the ranks of this sectional group.
Source: "The Civil War and Reconstruction" by J.G. Randall and David Herbert Donald
From 1854, when the Republican Party was founded, Democrats labeled it adherents "black" Republicans to identify them as proponents of black equality. During the 1860 elections Southern Democrats used the term derisively to press their belief that Abraham Lincoln's victory would incite slave rebellions in the South and lead to widespread miscegenation. The image the term conveyed became more hated in the South during Reconstruction as Radical Republicans forced legislation repugnant to Southerners and installed Northern Republicans or Unionists in the governments of the former Confederate states.
Source: "Historical Times Encyclopedia of the Civil War"
The Republican party in 1861 was a coalition of disparate elements. Formed only 7 years earlier, it contained men who had been Whigs, Anti-Slavery Democrats, Free-Soilers, Know-Nothings, and Abolitionists. By the outbreak of the war, these fragments had coalesced into 3 basic factions: conservatives, moderates, and radicals. President Abraham Lincoln's task was to mold these factions into a government that could win the war without destroying the South politically and economically.
The most aggressive and, eventually, most influential of the three was the Radical Republican faction. All Republicans were against slavery, but this group was the most "radical", in its opposition to the "peculiar institution." While conservatives favored gradual emancipation combined with colonization of Freedmen, and while moderates favored emancipation but with reservations, Radicals favored immediate eradication of an institution they viewed as iniquitous, and saw the war as a crusade for "Abolition."
Never a majority within the party, the Radicals dominated the other factions because of their commitment to their cause and the talent of their members, some of whom chaired key committees in Congress. In the House, their ranks included the Speaker, Galusha A. Grow, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Thaddeus Stevens, and influential members like Owen Lovejoy, Joshua Giddings, and George W. Julian. In the Senate, Charles Sumner, Henry Wilson, John P. Hale, Zachariah Chandler and Benjamin F. Wade chaired committees. Within Lincoln's cabinet, the secretaries of Treasury and War, Salmon P. Chase and Edwin M. Stanton, respectively, were Radicals. The center of Radical strength in the North was New England.
Men of little patience and less tolerance, the Radicals advocated an implacable, uncompromising prosecution of the war against the Southern rebellion, and were in the forefront of such issues and legislation as the Confiscation Acts, emancipation, the enlistment of blacks, the 13th Amendment, and Reconstruction policies. Though Lincoln, a moderate, eventually sided with the Radicals on a number of key issues, such as emancipation, many Radicals opposed his renomination in 1864 primarily because of their differences regarding Reconstruction. Certain generals also faced Radical opposition, not because of the officers military abilities but because of their political views. Radicals dominated the Committee on the Conduct of the War, which investigated military matters. Gen. George B. McClellan, in particular, was an anathema to Radicals.
The Union victory and the destruction of slavery did not conclude the Radicals program. With Lincoln's assassination and Andrew Johnson's succession, the Radicals domination of the party and Congress increased. These committed politicians would shape the reconstruction of the nation.
Source: "Historical Times Encyclopedia of the Civil War"
This Page last updated 02/16/02
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